PUBLISHED ON March 9th, 2023

COMESA roots for One Network Area to boost trade

In Summary

  • This is part of the Enhancement of Governance and Enabling Environment in the ICT sector.
  • The programme is being supported with a €8million (Sh1.1 billion) funding from the European Union, extended in 2021.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is pushing to have its member states implement a One Network area (ONA) to drive eCommerce growth.

This is part of the Enhancement of Governance and Enabling Environment in the ICT sector (EGEE-ICT) programme in the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, Indian Ocean (EA-SA-IO) region that also seeks to implement an eCommerce framework.

The programme is being supported with a €8million (Sh1.1 billion) funding from the European Union, extended in 2021.

It is a four-year programme aimed at supporting the effective review and development of various regional policy and regulatory frameworks in a harmonised manner that will contribute to enhancing competition, improved access to cost effective and secures ICT services.

It is being implemented in five regional economic communities–COMESA, East African Community (EAC), Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

COMESA will play the lead role in the implementation.

This will be similar to the EAC platform, where member states have been implementing measures to harmonise roaming rates.

Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan have implemented the measures, which encompasses harmonised tariffs on mobile voice calls, SMS and data transmission within the EAC.

“It is not an easy task, it requires political goodwill but iam sure if we can develop it per regions, and merge it finally, it is achievable,” Comesa director for infrastructure and logistics Jean-Baptiste Mutabazi said, “We need to scrap these roaming charges to enhance communication and eCommerce.

He spoke in Nairobi yesterday during the third programme steering committee meeting for the programme, which is evaluating progress made so far and adopting this year’s budget.

An eCommerce framework is already taking shape, having been validated in Malawi last year.

Kenya, Egypt and South Sudan are playing a lead role in the regional programme, with their ICE policies and frameworks being used as a benchmark.

According to experts, digital divide, high cost of services, high cost of devices, coverage gaps, low ICT literacy levels, cyber security and limitation in policy development are among factors hindering growth of ICT in Africa.

These challenges need to be addressed to ensure the continent is not left behind in the fourth industrial revolution and the digital economy, they say.

“We must seize the significant socio-economic opportunities that digital technologies offer. Today, we are witnessing a digital revolution where emerging technologies all converge to enable us participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Kenya’s State Department for ICT and Digital Economy PS, John Tanui, said.

The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy has committed to digitalise all government services, lay 100,000km of fibre optic cable across the country under the Digital Superhighway and install 25,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots.

It also plans to establish 1,450 digital village smart hubs and studios and enhance cyber security management in the next five years, the PS affirmed.

The government is also in the process of finalising the National Addressing System, Kenya Digital Economy Strategy and E-commerce Strategy to grow the creative sector and spur livelihoods.

Tanui said the government is also committed to protect the people’s right to privacy as a fundamental human right.

The setting up of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, he said, provides data subjects with rights and remedies to protect their personal data.

“As a matter of ensuring online safety and protection of citizens data, the government is extending the commission’s services to more than 10 regions and all Huduma Centres to enhance personal data protection,” Tanui said.

Comesa is pushing for the adoption of the initiatives ahead of the expiry of the programme set for 2024.

Budget absorption is currently at 35 per cent, Mutabazi said, the main challenge being procurement for expertise.

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